My Little Homophobic, Racist, Smart-Shaming Pony

In case you missed out, it’s My Little Pony week on the Ms. blog!

Having been thoroughly indoctrinated as a child to love ponies–and My Little Pony in particular–much of my understandings of femininity and heteronormativity come directly from my childhood interactions with cartoon ponies. (Diary excerpt: “I love wearing heels, it makes me feel like a pony!”) Looking back on TV shows like My Little Pony and Princess Gwenevere and the Jewel Riders–shows in which the powerful female figure was demonized as evil and the main character was always blond and blue-eyed–made me think, “Wow, the old days were so sexist and racist and heteronormative–thank goodness kids shows aren’t like that anymore!”

But alas, I spoke too soon.

Recently, I was fact-checking a Ms. Blog post regarding the sexed-up makeover of various children’s toys–in this case, the hallowed My Little Pony franchise from Hasbro–which led me to their website and an introduction to the latest My Little Pony TV show.

The very first image I saw was this:

I was immediately concerned that the only pony that looked slightly angry or tomboyish was the rainbow pony. Since there’s a false stereotype that all feminists are angry, tomboyish lesbians, it was disconcerting to think that a kid’s TV show would uphold this. I watched the video clip and, indeed, the rainbow pony stands out as having a perpetually maniacal expression while the others are cute and cuddly.

According to the “meet the ponies” page, which invites viewers to click on a pony to learn about each of their distinct personalities, “Rainbow Dash” is “capable and athletic,” “lives for adventure,” “brave and bold” and proves “time and time again that she is a true hero!” This positive portrayal made me wonder if perhaps the company was not providing a caricature but allowing for a positive account of gender-bending, and so I asked for a second opinion.

I showed the video to fellow Ms. intern/blogger Kyle and asked, “What’s wrong with this picture?” he responded, “There aren’t any black ponies. Why aren’t there any brothas on the wall?” I had originally assumed that the purple ponies were supposed to represent black ponies, but he was right–the ponies don’t seem very racially diverse.

But then we noticed that there were, indeed, black ponies:

Yes–the only black ponies in the TV show My Little Pony are slave ponies to the white pony overlord! How can we expect kids to grow up rejecting racism when they watch shows like this?

Finally, I went looking for an episode of My Little Pony online to further dissect and discovered the following description:

‘Get your muzzle out of those books and make some friends!’ That’s what Princess Celestia tells Twilight Sparkle. She may be the smartest unicorn in Equestria, but Twilight Sparkle gets an ‘incomplete’ in friendship. There’s more to life than learning magic, after all–so she goes to Ponyville on a mission to make friends. There she meets five special ponies who take her on exciting adventures and teach her the most powerful magic of all … the magic of friendship!

This cheerful description of an authority figure specifically ordering a pony to stop studying so that she can make friends reminds me of the infamous Barbie quote–”Math class is tough.” Ponyville seems to be a culture that dismisses girls who prefer reading books to playing dress-up and looking beautiful (and sparkling, of course).

So overall, these are the lessons My Little Pony teaches girls:

  • Magical white ponies are suited for leadership; black ponies are suited to be servants.
  • Stop learning! You will overcome any obstacle by resorting to strength in numbers (of friends).
  • Girls that wear rainbows are butch.
  • You need the government (ideally a monarch invested with supreme ultimate power and a phallic symbol strapped to her forehead) to tell you what to do with your life.

What’s your take?

Comments

  1. RAINBOW DASH LOVER says:

    wow… I don't know what to say. As a 14 year old fan, of a wonderfully animated, heartfelt show, I don't know what to say. CARTOON PONIES. Hello? uh, those ponies were grey. How RIDICULOUS! Dude! it's a freaking cartoon! I'm a Tomboy, but I'm not a lesbian! I like the ponies because of their personalities, and it shows that Girls can be different! Rainbow Dash shows that you can be tough and girly at the same time, and still protect and be happy with your friends. I don't know what else i should say to you. If these comments still don't give you an idea of what you simply don't understand, I'm sorry you think that way. I feel very sorry for you.

  2. Alright I would have to agree with a lot of these people on here.

    WATCH THE SHOW BEFORE YOU GO AND PUT IT DOWN.

    Seeing some of the pictures might make it seem like its that way, but when EVER was it clear that we distinguish ponies race by their color?? If you would watch the show and actually follow the story line, you would see that all of your so-called 'lessons' are WRONG-O.

    People that put something down before actually doing their RESEARCH really gets me going…

  3. I'm…rather surprised at this…"review" of the subtext of the series. It seems to me that the person who wrote this article was looking for something to attack this show and so, picked, not so much the show, but little snippets of things taken out of context and came up with wild accusations.

    Firstly, the reason that there aren't any black ponies is because it would severely contrast to the overall color palette of the entire series. My Little Ponies have NEVER had any prominent black ponies and that's never even been a thought that crossed my mind in my youth. As a child, black is a dark color that represents night, nighttime and things that go "bump" in the night. So, for a cheery, sunny show like this, such a dark color wouldn't quite fit and that's never bothered me. …although, I am curious as to why you only noticed this now and not in the previous MLP series. …or the Care Bears, for that matter.

    Anyway, as for the fact that Rainbow Dash is a tomboy, I NEVER made a connection as her being a tough and rough butch lesbian. Her sexual preference isn't even apparent in the show. I get that the rainbow is the sign for homosexuality, but that's because I'm an adult. …do you really think a CHILD is going to make a wild connection between a rainbow-maned pony and her tomboyish ways being considered a butch lesbian? In truth, even an adult would find this a stretch. It just seems to me that they used the rainbow to add some sort of softness to her design, that's all. Nothing malicious, nothing terrible.

    Lastly, about the reading/studying topic. This is COMPLETELY taken out of context! I almost can't believe just how much. I saw the episode (the very first episode, in fact) and in that episode the character, Twilight Sparkle, spent ALL of her time studying and researching. She never took the time to just enjoy living her life, never socialized, never did anything outside of the libraries where she lost herself in books. And to that, I agree with the advice given to her by Celestia. She said that she needed to balance herself out and go and explore other areas and meet new people. If a person isolates themselves from the world in favor of studying and researching, one cannot begin to consider that healthy. So, to that, I completely agree that she does need to explore other aspects of life apart from the intellectual.

    Honestly, I don't think there's anything wrong with this series. I think it's one of the better remakes of an old 80's show. The only other one that I really like is the Strawberry Shortcake remake. I think you need to actually watch the show before you can make such a harsh judgement on it. It's not at all what you think and if you give it its fair chance, you'll see what I mean.

  4. What is MY take? That the writer of this article is certainly paranoid. How can ponies even HAVE races like we do? There are pink,purple,green and yellow ponies skin color really isn't an issue and the writer of the article needs to stop reading too much into this show. As for the subject of Rainbow Dash You are the one being prejudice by immediately associating Rainbows with homosexuality. TL:DR The writer of this article needs to stop reading into things and needs to stop being prejudice.

  5. Ponies don't have a race! They have fur/hair colors! They are anthropomorphic animals! You are putting too much meaning into a fun kid's show. When did we ever see in real life white animals vs. black animals- NEVER! Animals don't care about the color of their fur. Just because humans voice them doesn't mean they have a race. They are multicolored magical creatures- like they were in the 80's. Get a grip! Not everything with rainbows is a LGBT. Sheesh!

    Let little girls enjoy this cartoon. Shoot even little boy can enjoy because of the smart way it was written and because there are more guy ponies in this series than the old one. Get your head out of the haterarde and support a great show. Glad Ms. Faust posted a rebuttal and set the record straight.

  6. Whoever wrote this is really reaching for something to worry about, color choices and personally types dont always have a nefarious secret purpose behind the, So calm down and stop trying to find things to complain about.

  7. BB Shockwave says:

    Let's get it out of the bag here – I am a 32 year old GUY, and I LOVE this show. And I am not alone with this… Which just goes to show how well-written, clever, funny, and also cute and entertaining this series is!

    The author of this article obviously never even watched a single episode, to make so many incredibly wrong assumptions just from glancing at Hasbro's official site and the few seconds long intro.

    Firstly, there are no "black" ponies or "white ponies". The author would know this if she knew the previous MLP shows… There are no skin color difference races amongst ponies. There are three races – 'earth ponies' (normal horses), pegasi, and unicorns. And, 'lo and behold, there are two of each race amongst the six main characters! You cannot get any more equal then that.

    As to why Princess Celestia is white? Well, "maybe" because (again, had she watched the show the author would know), she is not just a ruler, but also the representation of the Sun, who controls the day, while her dark blue sister, Princess Luna controlled the night. Yin and Yang, both are needed.

    Rainbow Dash is not a lesbian, again if she'd watch the show, she could tell this. She is kind of a tomboy, but it'd be pretty racist to assume every tomboy is a lesbian. I had known a girl who played soccer with us boys in school, in fact everyone wanted her to be on the team, and she beat up boys older then her… yet now, she is married to a guy and is a mother.

    Twilight Sparkle is sent to Ponyville not to stop her studies, but to also study the "Magic of friendship" (as the title goes) – and throughout the series so far, she remains a thoughtfull and level-headed, somewhat bookish pony, who nonetheless realized she was missing some good friends from her life.

    Overall, I think the show is a morally excellent guidance for kids. Episode 9. for example, teaches us that just because someone is odd and outlandish and different, we should not judge or shun her, when the ponies discover that the odd zebra girl they think is a witch who cursed them, actually warned them of the danger and is working on a cure for them. Or episode 8., which has the morale that even if you don't like someone at first impression, you can try to find some common ground, especially if you and her have a common friend.

    I'm writing this because I like this show, and I want to put a stop to any actions Hasbro would take based on this biased and very unprofessionally written review. As they'd say in Equestria, "What the hay", if you want to judge a movie or cartoon, at least watch it first. On December 9., at least 7 episodes were already uploaded to Hasbro's Hubworld Website… So Ms. Richter doesn't have this excuse either.

    • Don't you mean it would be HOMOPHOBIC to assume every tomboy is a lesbian?
      Just a small nitpick to an otherwise well-thought-out rebuttal.

  8. i think you are reading WAAAAY to much into this. seriously, it’s a kid’s show, don’t over think it too much. people do that too often nowadays and complicate things more than they need to be.

    plus, kids aren’t racist like adults. they aren’t going to pick up on stuff like that because they don’t KNOW about it. if you really want to teach kids how to not be racist, then teach them that ALL humans are ONE RACE. stop teaching kids things like, “This person is black, this person is white, but let’s still all get along!” i can see how that could be viewed as a somewhat good thing, but when you do that you’re still separating people into different groups. If we really want to cure racism, start by taking the word “RACE” out of it, because like i said, we’re all one RACE.

  9. You read way too much into this for your own good.

  10. nick morris says:

    Look around you. Do any of the walls in your room have a square or rectangle that is brighter than the wall itself? It may be very bright or it may have some curtains in front of it. Get up and walk towards the bright square, pull back the curtains and look outside. You see that? That's called THE OUTSIDE WORLD. Somewhere where you are there's a magic door that leads to THE OUTSIDE WORLD. If you go through it and to the outside, magical things can happen. You can get drunk, get laid if you want, or just go for a walk in the park and feed the birds.
    Try it, you'll become a lot more healthy I promise.
    Merryfoot the Christmas Pixie.

  11. Good job trying to put down one of the very few animated shows helmed by a woman.

  12. Kathleen, I'm sure your opinions are well thought out and have the proper research to support them. But I refuse to believe any website has any journalistic credibility if it has blog in the URL twice.

  13. I must ask you this: Is there ANY children targeted show that you don't see anything wrong? Any one at all?
    To me it looks like you just stared at some advertising of the show looking for somethig to complain about.
    seriously…

  14. I liked how you implied that the black ponies who serve the princess are slaves, when they're merely members of the Equestrian military.

    You are calling people in the military slaves to their government.

    Shitstorm in 3…2…1…

    Also, since you resorted to blatant name-calling, so will I. Blogs are the cancer that is killing journalism. Deal with it.

  15. Tee hee. I also thought I'd add that magazines for women, SUCH AS MS. – tend to be the things that mold the concept of 'femininity' to a stronger degree than My Little Pony.

    Because, I don't go home at night and hate myself for not being a pony. I hate myself for not being 'beautiful' as magazines sling as "beauty."

    Thanks, Ms. Thanks chick who wrote this!

    You sure make ME feel like a winner!

  16. OMG…really?? It'a a CARTOON!!!

  17. Li'l Brony says:

    Apparently, you haven't actually watched the show, or else you'd notice the "token black" pony is actually Zecora, who first appeared in episode 9, of which the entire plot about ALL ABOUT teaching tolerance and acceptance of different cultures.

    Really, though, why the hell are you looking for HUMAN racial traits in a cartoon about PONIES? The whole point of making animals the main characters of a children's show is to AVOID stereotyping based on physical appearances.

  18. Giggle Blossom says:

    I totally agree. This show is completely racist. I see orange, pink, blue, and yellow ponies, but not one green pony. This is erasure, discrimination, and evidence of My Little Pony's foul racist agenda. As a lovely sparkly green pony with big googly eyes, I applaud Kathleen Richter for bringing these insidious, endemic issues in our little pony culture to the forefront. Ponies of all the spectrum should not stand for this racist drivel!

    • Derpy Hooves says:

      On the off chance you’re not snarking: What color pony is Applejack’s Granny Smith, then?

  19. Surely this is a joke! I cannot believe the writer actually meant such nonsense seriously! I was part of the 70′s women’s movement. We fought for many things. But I certainly did NOT fight for the right to destroy all fun for children! Yes, I even bought my daughter BARBIE! And my sons–GI JOE! And recently I bought my granddaughter MY LITTLE PONY!! I am assuming that the writer of the anti-pony screed was having a bit of ironic fun at our expense. If she is serious I suggest she redirect her attention to some of the more serious problems facing women. Such as domestic violence, sexual assault and other acts of violence and abuse. And she might want to focus on the fact that the economy in this country is not improving and millions of women–and men–are out of jobs. And if that is not enough, and pink ponies are still her main concern–I suggest she turn her attention to countries where women are stoned to death or have acid thrown in their faces for the “crimes” of having their faces uncovered–or wanting to get an education. LEAVE “MY LITTLE PONY” ALONE!

  20. Derpy Hooves says:

    Thank you for allowing Lauren Faust the opportunity to write a rebuttal to this article.

    http://msmagazine.com/blog/blog/2010/12/24/my-lit

  21. Licketysplit says:

    I'm torn. Really, I don't even know where to start with this one; you've just made it too easy to pick holes in your silly argument that anthropomorphic pastel *ponies* are the great sin against mankind.

    I'll start with the black ponies, because that's richer than -ahem- double-fudge chocolate cake. I'm going to eat this cake right up.

    I see the common argument that there aren't enough 'black' characters for black people to identify with. I'm all for racial harmony and equality, but in the case of cartoon shows where the only 'human' traits of the characters are that they have featherfinger syndrome and happen to be able to talk and live in outrageous houses, I can't help but wonder why race would be an issue. Except I remember what a man once told me while I was a young-un, living in a particularly rural part of Kentucky.

    "There needs to be more black characters," he said quite solemnly, "because I don't think black people should identify with white characters."

    Give that a minute. Just give it a good *think.*

    Is that what racial quality in television is about? Have black characters so that little white girls don't have to feel icky about little black girls liking the same pony as them? What does that say about me, the little white girl whose favorite American Girl doll was Addy, to the extent where I still have the doll, the books, all her accessories, and still get pissed that she never got her own movie/TV special that I know of?

    Am I bad for having her? Should I have stuck with Felicity, since I'm a red-haired white girl? Since she looks like me? Is that the point you're trying to get across here? Am I only allowed to watch and enjoy episodes of the old My Little Pony n' Friends series featuring Paradise, the white and red pony, because our color scheme is similar?

    This cake, it is delicious, and yet I'm getting the distinct feeling that someone is telling me to eat shit.

  22. Hannah Kincaid says:

    You didn't… actually… watch… the… oh, cripes. *facepalm* No, seriously. You judged the show based entirely on promotional materials, which anybody who knows a damn about the entertainment industry should realize are generally written by interns and such who may not even be representing the show properly. And you're drawing your conclusions from that. Just… wow.

    You know, when I was a budding young fundamentalist, I saw a daytime talk show where they were "discussing" Huckleberry Finn. We were reading it in school the next year, so I was curious. Turns out the "discussion" was nothing more than bringing on an angry Bible-thumper who was offended by the book's, get this, lack of morality. His evidence of this consisted entirely of a placard on which he had written, in magic marker, the number of "hells" "damns" and "n*ggers" in the text.

    Well, even that that tender age, I could recognize an shallow, uninformed person when I saw one. That encounter turned out to be instrumental in my rejection of religious fundamentalism and my interest in freer-minded ideologies. And it breaks my heart to see people bringing the same shoddy, decontextualized, grievance-based semblance of reason and critique from the feminist movement, my supposed allies. Our side isn't supposed to do these things.

    At least it's a relief to see that the readership of Ms. is SOLIDLY on the side of Ms. Faust — in particular, because if you BOTHER TO LOOK AT ANY OF IT IN CONTEXT it is actually quite a lovely and affirming show. Maybe you should, you know, watch it some time. :p

  23. If you actually watched the first two episodes a few of the other episodes you’d see how misinformed you are. Are there problems with the show? Yes, however your one look at the promotional image tells me you didn’t even research the subject properly and that’s just bad journalism. You COULD have talked about Zecora the African Zebra, however you just only looked at a few images and made a cut and dry assessment.

    This show is a hundred times better than the My Little Pony shows that came before it. Does it still have it’s problems? YES! Is it getting better however? Yes to that too.

  24. Lol, surely this entire blog post is a joke. After reading this article, I’m more concerned with children taking after the author’s values than those implied by any cartoon show.

    I am a long time fan of the MLP franchise, from 1984 to present. Granted I am no authority on the matter, I can honestly say that I appreciate where Ms. Faust has taken this particular line with the show Friendship is Magic. For those of us who ARE informed, as the author of this blog clearly is not, the show is a fantastic balance of fun and great values, geared toward little girls. Make friends, learn, equality, be creative, read, enjoy life and be happy. Who wouldn’t want their kids to have values like those?

    Those exact values are sorely lacking in some of the dominating toy lines for little girls that I have seen as of late. Glamour, fashion and getting a cute guy are pretty much the extent of the messages sent by those toy lines. I’m sorry, but I’ll take the new MLP show over those any day.

    To call the show “homophobic, racist, and smart-shaming” while identifying yourself as a feminist sends the wrong message about feminism and is completely irresponsible. I know this is a blog, but your article was written without research. You took one glance at a picture and perhaps a few seconds of footage. To pass judgment on something based on two very minor details without the facts and to equate tomboys and rainbows to lesbians is discriminating and makes you sound a tad homophobic to make such an accusation. To see something with a black color scheme portraying a “servant” role and automatically associating it to African Americans is racist. And neither of those is a very smart thing to do. So essentially…you just committed the very crimes you were complaining about in your blog and it sends a far worse message than any colorful little pony in this show ever could.

    Lastly, it’s a CARTOON and there’s an entire list of them far more devastating on today’s youth. I highly recommend the show to you however, as it teaches some great lessons you could apparently learn from. :3

  25. Classic Cartoon Fan says:

    You're kidding.

    …right?

    I can't believe you post an article without a proper research! And not even try watching at least the very first episode to find out how the show really is. You simply jump into conclusions just based on promotional materials.

  26. Emerald Raybeam says:

    Wow….
    Ponies fur colors do not a race make. There are very few individuals in Equestria who share colour schemes!
    It’s racist against ALL ponies to think of such a thing! We have three races, Earth Pony, Unicorn, and Pegasus, and we all have a multitude of colours that are not exclusive to any one race.

  27. Really now? says:

    Are you serious? The "slave" ponies aren't even really black, they are a light charcoal grayish color. This is a great show, and Apple Jack is just as tomboyish as Rainbow Dash. Maybe you should watch the show and do another blog on this. This show has great morals and great lessons for children.

  28. Yeah, hi. 43-year-old male MLP fan here.

    No, you didn’t read that wrong. I was watching Fizzy blowing bubbles when the show first came on TV in the ’80s. So I REMEMBER the occasional strong (and weak) feminine villains who were, yes, EVIL. That’s because they were the villains, same as the strong (and weak) masculine figures who also played villains. Not to mention that MLP villains were occasionally rehabilitated, giving them somewhat better definition as characters than, say, Cobra Commander or Destro.

    Insisting on male-only villainy is itself sexist. It also skips over the reality: villains who carry the role well and dramatically are RESPECTED by audiences. Your kvetching seems only to insist that women should not HAVE such roles available to them.

    You think Rainbow Dash is “angry”? How did you pull that context from a group-shot picture? You’re looking at a “determined” expression there, and she is nothing if not that.

    You think the grey ponies are “black”? There is exactly one “black” pony, she’s a Zebra, and her episode is all about learning sensitivity towards the differences found in other cultures — hers is presented as tribal African. Your “slave” ponies are Royal Guards, as should be obvious from their armor and uniforms.

    It sounds like you went in looking for a fight and something to complain about. Here on the Internet, that makes you a troll. That you actually get paid for it surely makes you an object of envy for the entirety of Anonymous.

  29. Um hello – what planet are you on? Had you done your research, you'd find that Rainbow Dash is a character created by hasbro, she is blue with rainbow hair, there are loads of other ponies with rainbow hair, this is just one of many colourations of the pony toys. To assume that every single depiction of the colours of the rainbow is a reference to a lesbian is narrow minded and just plain idiotic.

    Since when do the colours of cartoon characters depict any kind of orientation they may have? It is in fact the writer of this article who is imposing her own narrow views on this children's cartoon show, and a poor interpretation of what is going on.

    I doubt that children are even aware of what a phallic symbol is, and if the shows creators wanted to, they could have had a King of Equestria instead of a princess, there are male characters in the show as well. The fact that some of the characters are unicorns makes no odds as to whether the symbol is phallic or not. In fact, if reference were to be made about race it would surely be in the form of whether the characters were pegasus, earth or unicorn ponies, all of which are represented equally in the show. I'm suprised the writer of this article didn't find something to say about the ponies with wings – surely there is some kind of dark, brainwashing underhand meaning to this as well???!!!!

    There are some cartoon shows in the past which have made inappropriate references to human society – My Little Pony FiM is definitely NOT one of them! I seriously hope this article was some kind os sarcastic poke!!

  30. Laura Dawson says:

    I don't understand how something so absurd could actually be written if it were not meant to make fun of authors who actually denounce racist, homophobic, or sexist viewpoints in modern media. As someone who sincerely tries to subvert the often negatively media portrayals of race, homosexuality, and women, I find this article incredibly insulting. It completely marginalizes our cause in the worst possible ways. What is this horrid work attempting to accomplish aside from making the rest of us out to be fools?

  31. Like the others, I started reading this in the wrong way until about a quarter of the way through, I realized you weren’t really being serious and then started laughing in the spirit of the article. You have a GREAT sense of humour! Making fun of people who constantly over-analyze things to the point of killing good things is a great way to get laughs! This is a great essay on what it’s like living in a culture of over-zealous politically-correct freakish nuts. This was a great spoof, thank you! Especially for an otherwise dull Monday! =-)

  32. The Robert Stull says:

    Your entry made me giggle many times. I do think you're stretching it a few times (unicorn phallus), but each of them were very humorous to me, so not mad at'cha.

    I totally agree about there being no black/dark ponies. I think a deep blueish gray or chocolate brown pony could be very beautiful (assuming they didn't give it an afro).

    I don't agree that the lesbian pony is really a bad thing. A stereotype sure, but I know a lot of dorky lesbians that LOVED She-Ra and Wonder Woman growing up – both of which are pretty blatant stereotypes. If, under some miracle of the goddess, a little tomboy girl sees this show and gets super attached to Rainbow Pony then hurray for her.

    Kid's shows have always been a very sticky subject. They are normally made by very creative and liberal people who want to teach kids a whole plethora of positive character traits but are in constant fear of profit margins and conservative parent boycotts. It's very likely that the show's creators tried to work in as much "open-mindedness" as they could. They probably failed in many cases, but I commend them for trying none the less.

  33. I think the rainbow thing might be designed to expand the show's age bracket upward by showcasing the type of impotent, nonthreatening punk style that pre-tween and tween girls are so obsessed with once they've exited the 3-8yo pink/princess phase girls go through. Now, what's the favorite accessory all those little-girl-"punks" want to get? Candy-rainbow dyed hair.

  34. Do you even watch the show?

  35. Well, there IS a black pony – it's zebra.

    But of course you didn't bother to watch at least first ep, not to mention latest when this zebra appears.

    All you did is judging upon a self-made conclusions from the annotations. Way to go, blogger.